Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
AS THE harsh economic reality takes its toll on deep-rural communities in Portland, a group of residents have resorted to the sea as a way of life, with many adopting fishing as their new livelihood.
The catching of sprat (a small, shiny fish, which travels in large schools) by pockets of youth and elderly persons is evident at Boundbrook Wharf, the Old Port Antonio Marina, and the Port Antonio West Harbour.
"Our daily meals are guaranteed. We are merely trying to help ourselves and, in doing so, feed family members," said Stephen Miller, one of the fishermen.
He added: "Sometimes the catch is big and, as such, we are able to sell some of the sprats to residents, shop operators, and higglers. Left without jobs, we are forced to fend for ourselves and once the weather is good, our catch is always big."
Shopkeepers buy sprats and prepare them by frying and adorning them with onions and Scotch bonnet pepper. This is then sold to consumers for $30 each, and is in high demand, espe-cially on Friday and Saturday nights.
The catching of sprat requires a special skill. One has to hold the fishing line with the thumb and the index finger, which is then spun at a fast pace to attract the fish.
But while the males have dominated the catching of sprat, women have also learnt the art by merely watching their opposite number, and have displayed a liking for the activity.
"It is just pure fun," said a young woman, who gave her name only as Jennifer. "It took me several weeks to catch my first sprat, but today, I can easily catch up to 20 sprats without breaking a sweat. I like to eat sprat, and they are my favourite, especially when it is eaten with gratto (bread)."
Sprat can be bought at the Musgrave market in Port Antonio at a cost of $150 per pound.